This past weekend, Feb. 26-28, Mississippi State University took on Tulane University in an insanely competitive weekend series on the diamond. It would be a roller coaster of a weekend filled with home runs, strikeouts and even walk-offs, and the cardiac kids of baseball, the MSU Diamond Dawgs, would shine through it all.
In the first game of the weekend on Friday, junior pitcher Christian MacLeod would draw the start and have a productive first two innings, striking out three and only walking one. The Bulldogs would then score one run in the bottom of the second. In the third inning, however, poor fielding would result in an even poorer day for MacLeod at the plate. After striking out the first two batters, MacLeod would hit the third, allowing him to take first.
After an error by second baseman and infielder graduate student Scotty Dubrule, the runner would advance to second. A two-run home run from Tulane then put the Green Wave up 2-1, and the day was downhill from there for MSU.
In the sixth inning, an explosion of Tulane's unearned runs would set the score at 5-1, Tulane's lead. In the top of the ninth, the Green Wave would add some insurance runs and set the score at 7-2. In the second half of that frame, MSU would score one run on an error before a fly out would end the game.
On the second day, it appeared to be the same story for the Bulldogs, with starter and junior pitcher Eric Cerantola showing some control issues early on, allowing Tulane to get up early 1-0 in the first inning. Senior outfielder Tanner Allen would then take the lead for MSU with a homer of the two-run variety, making the score 2-1, Bulldogs' lead.
The control issues would continue for Cerantola, however, because after walking several batters, Tulane would pump out a two RBI single to set the score at 3-2. Tulane would go on to add to their lead in the sixth inning with an RBI double that would set the score at 4-2, with the lead belonging to the Green Wave. Kamren James, a sophomore infielder, would help MSU claw back into the game, however, with a solo shot to center field in the second half of the frame.
In the top of the eighth inning, Tulane would hit a solo home run that many thought to be a dagger for the Bulldogs. The cardiac kids of Dudy Noble, however, would have other plans.
In the bottom of the ninth, after Garth Brooks had serenaded all 2,473 Bulldog fans in attendance with his tales of all of his "Friends in Low Places," a single from senior outfielder Rowdey Jordan would breathe some life into the Diamond Dawgs. A sophomore catcher, Logan Tanner's single would follow, and that placed runners at the corners with no outs. After an intentional walk of Tanner Allen, the bases were loaded, and junior catcher Luke Hancock would send a walk-off grand slam straight to the Sanderson Center Parking lot. The Dude erupted, and the sun set on the second day of action in the opening weekend.
When asked about his performance after the game, Luke Hancock gave an emotional answer.
"That was the best moment of my life," the Houston, Mississippi, native shared.
Even more magic would take place on Day 3, however, with Tulane leading again all the way up until the bottom of the sixth inning, where Luke Hancock and Kamren James would secure a 3-2 lead with an RBI double and a two-run homer. Tulane catcher Luis Alvies, who had a hot bat all weekend, would send a two-run shot deep over the centerfield wall in the top of the ninth, however, setting the score at 4-3, Green Wave's lead. Team leader Tanner Allen would not be denied; as with runners on second and third, two outs and a full count; the veteran right fielder would hit a single through the middle to walk off the series clinching win, 5-4.
Tanner Allen has had plenty of memories with his team, from trips to Omaha, to other walk off wins, but when asked about his at bat and where it ranks to him, he had high things to say about the win.
"This one is probably at the top," Allen said.
MSU will take on the University of Southern Mississippi on March 2nd before coming back to the Dude to face Tennessee Tech University in another weekend series on March 5-7.